Budget is always an issue. It doesn’t matter if I’m talking to an ASX top 200 or a startup. If somebody tells me “budget is no object” I’m usually tempted to walk away as I know they are lying.

Business isn’t really that different to life. We have a finite budget and income that we have to somehow manage to juggle mortgages, kids, groceries, health, holidays and even add vet bills for the dog (Thanks Maze) and possibly a few Iconic purchases (everyone’s got to shop a little!).

There’s no point feeling sorry for yourself. Some may be better off than others, but you can’t live your life playing the blame game. Back to trade shows; I find it really sad to see people settling for mediocre because “it’s a trade show” and “people expect to see shell scheme standard booths”.

These are the same sorry souls that don’t get back what the show “owes” them. They blame their pitiful show on the organiser and/or lack of quality visitors and vow never to do another trade show again “because they don’t work” or “cost too much”.

I’m writing this post in the hope of helping my readers snap out of this sorry state. Let me get one thing straight before I continue – Before you jump down my throat – I’m not picking on those who hire shell schemes. It’s just an example. There’s zero wrong with securing a smaller stand space!

There are a lot of case histories floating around that are mostly of people sharing superstar success stories through rose-tinted glasses. Everybody is keen to hear about the big flashy brands and their triumphant tales. Very few actually shine a light on some of the true tradeshow struggles and I think that alienates the larger majority of everyday businesses trying to get ahead using exhibitions.

Regardless of your company’s size (or budget) you aren’t just forking out money “to wave the flag” or because you “have to be there because your opposition is”. Anybody voicing this isn’t paying from their own hip pocket.

You might not make direct sales (although you’d be surprised what happens if you ask for the order. Your business really isn’t “different”) but you’re introducing people to the sales pipeline and moving them further along it. Let’s not forget you’re still going with the objective of making money.

So far this has been a whine (Hmm, did somebody mention wine?) We’ve discussed the negatives but now what to do about them?

Sit tight, I’m going to share one strategy and at the end I will give you some specific tips on cost effective ways of getting the attention you deserve at your next exhibition.

Getting focused is the most important part. It’s about aligning the team and the key message so when the design is brought to life, all the moving parts are working together and pulling in the same direction.

The first question I ask when I sit down with a client who is committed to turning around their exhibit program is: “What do you want visitors to walk away knowing about you?”

This focus question seriously works miracles.

It draws your attention to what is actually important and reinforces that it can only be one message.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but narrowing your focus on this single question has the power to guide each element of the campaign. It’s likely to vary between shows over time and needs to be reassessed. It may be met with some resistance, but at the close of the exhibition it’s the only thing that truly matters. So please do yourself a favour and start here if you want to transform your team, your design and of course, your results.


The 4 common mistakes I see impacting budget most:

  • Booking a space that is too large and not leaving enough money for a quality finish
  • Allocating too much money to something irrelevant such as giveaways, brochures, an interactive, or bringing a piece of equipment to the show that you can’t operate the budget is gobbled up just getting it to the exhibition
  • Having too many staff on the stand. Related expenses including travel, accommodation are expected, but it’s the cost of having everybody out of the office at the same time that gets forgotten. People then attempt to work on the stand instead of selling and aren’t doing either task well.
  • The original budget gets slashed part way through the process (eg after the stand has been booked)


What you can do right now to avoid these mistakes?

  • Formulate a strong key message. One that stops the visitor as they walk by at 6km/hr looking left and right.
  • Don’t clutter the stand, whether it’s product, graphics, staff or laptops. Keep it simple and easy for visitors to take in.
  • Be realistic with your budget and tally up everything before you book the stand space so you aren’t caught out. It isn’t about having a stand size that is bigger than your competitors. You want to make it effective. Include as much as you can in your budget from design and logistics through to taxi’s and meals at the show.
  • Get everyone involved right at the beginning so you’re less likely to change course part way through planning.


Simple Exhibits Design Tips:

  • If you have a fascia, remove it
  • Try not to forgo a raised floor, it goes a long way to defining your space
  • Do what others aren’t! Pick a striking colour you would not normally think of using, put graphics on the floor
  • Forget traditional brochures – Go digital to save trees (and money on reprints/transport/waste)


Upscale your Exhibit Management:

  • Prepare a number of conversation starters and an elevator pitch
  • Brainstorm FAQ’s with your team
  • Have a staff member or 2 in the aisle working this underutilised space
  • Map out your ideal customer journey, then come up with ways to improve the visitor experience for each phase
  • Make sure all team members take ownership of what you’re trying to achieve and their role in it (for both planning and execution)


Pre & Post Show Considerations:

  • Treat you stand as an event within an exhibition. This mindset shift gets you thinking about ways to attract people to your stand and to continue the relationship beyond the show.
  • What can you do to extend the life of the show beyond the event and make it a special experience for your visitors?


I can’t offer you a magic money tree, but I can help work through ways to get more out of your attendance. Feel free to get in touch if you would like to talk over your individual needs.

Always here to help,